Muse-Tryst In the Elysian Fields
(Tribute to Gerard Manley Hopkins)
by Bob Church
I look upon the raven hill,
With alders standing stark and still,
Beneath, betwixt my altered will,
Sweet reverence notwithstanding.
There stood for me a buttressed swale,
Inviting me to climb its trail,
Around, among the fall detail,
Glib reference remanding.
It’s there I heard her call to me,
From back behind an alder tree,
With naught but skylarks there to see,
Still deference demanding.
“Manley Hopkins, I presume?”
Called she, from manses deep with gloom,
Her voice a misplaced autumn bloom,
From high atop a landing.
How could she dare to mistake me
For one of voice so pure and free
That mention of his name with mine
Might risk the gods’ displeasure?
“I fear that you would chance defame
By uttering so profound a name
That any man would proudly claim,
When taken at his leisure.”
The nymph appeared and stood before
My disbelieving eyes, now sore,
So bright became her earthly glow,
Indeed, she was a treasure.
“Are you not he whom all can see,
Who lives in chastened harmony,
With boundless touch of land and sea,
And hint of mist for measure?”
With lowered head and furrowed brow,
I dared a smile’d escape me now;
Humbled, I could not help but bow,
And shake my head, “No, tis not I.
“He wrote of Spenser and of Keats,
Mermaids wrought of nature’s sweets,
Sonnets writ in measured beats,
Interchanging eclipse with splendor;
“Crossing lines, his words imbue
Cleric virtues in attitude
Reserved for laity to choose,
Certainly not Society of Jesus.”
Plum-purple west with spikes of light,
Speared open gashes, crimson-white,
And doggedly she denied the night
Opportunity to seize us.
She spoke of water-lily flakes,
Clustering on beryl lakes,
Reminding me what nature takes,
When last she opts to leave us.
“Gerard left his touch on you,
With gusts of scented wind that blew,
And antique Latin chants he knew,
He touched your quivering face.
“Embrace his words as they were taught,
As they pass your lips you’ll fear them not,
Revere them as you know you ought,
And they’ll lend to you their grace.
“To know dusk-depths of ponderous sea,
Or with miles of solid green, to be
One-tenth as profound as he
Is worthy as undertaken.”